The Algarve’s Ria Formosa islanders yet again have started to receive eviction and demolition notices from the Polis Litoral Ria Formosa society as if the struggles and progress made in the last year have been erased from the memory of the Environment Minister, João Pedro Matos Fernandes.
Fifty households in the villages of Hangares and Farol have received letters even though parliament has agreed that home owners can stay put in their island properties until a plan agreed by all parties is agreed on.
One of the islanders’ claims was that they are best placed to look after the Ria Formosa area and, with this in mind, have submitted a comprehensive plan to the ministry for which there has been zero response.
The government last year agreed that an integrated plan for the consolidation and legal recognition of the various villages would be put in place. This proposal was voted on in the Assembly and, with the help of the government’s left wing party supporters, was passed.
There is no plan from the government and no response to the islanders’ details submission, just more demolition notices which many following this lengthy battle thought were a thing of the past and that cooperation and conversation had replaced long period of anger and mistrust created by the former Polis Litoral Ria Formosa president Sebastião Teixera.
The islanders' SOS Ria Formosa’s Facebook page this evening states that “the only concern seems to be continuing to destroy here and there without any sense and without any consolidation plan for those areas.”
The islanders say that a trap has been sprung after the campaigning and protests had died away and a deal was offered by the minister.
“The plan seems to be to continue to not have a plan until one day there's nothing left, at least for the people of the area, because when everything is cleaned away, I'm sure there will be no shortage of investors.”
Paulo Sá from the Communist Party already has asked for an urgent response from the minister.
This situation is all the more surprising as the new head of Polis Litoral Ria Formosa, José Pacheco, seems to have continued the previous demolition remit that caused Teixeira’s dismissal.
The balance of power shifted after Teixeira’s disastrous period in office and the inclusion of more local council seats on the board now seems to have counted for little.
The Communist Party was laudably quick to release a statement condemning the new swathe of demolition notices, noting that last December, the 4,300 signature petition "For the preservation of the Ria Formosa and immediate suspension of demolitions" was discussed and passed in parliament.
The Communists remain convinced, and they are not alone, that the weight of the State's machinery has been used to crush these islanders so as to make way for 'high-class' tourist development at a future date. This has never been confirmed but is the only logical conclusion that explains a permanent desire to rid these islands of people and properties. The reasons used to support these demolitions have varied so widely that any ring of truth was muffled long ago.
The Communist statement reads that "the threat of demolitions has not definitely gone away. It is not far away because the PSD, CDS and PS do not want to make an unequivocal commitment to end the demolitions once and for all. It is not far away because the great private interests that want to appropriate a wealth that belongs to us all have not given up on the objective of expelling local communities from the barrier islands of the Ria Formosa. That is why it is necessary that the populations are vigilant - very vigilant - because at any moment this destruction can return. Unfortunately, sooner rather than later, the suspicions of the Communist Party have been confirmed!”
"The action of the Polis Litoral Ria Formosa Society, which the government presumably knows about, is less than three years after the Assembly approved Resolution 241/2016, of October 27th, which recommended that the Government:
1. Recognises the economic, social and cultural values of the villages on the barrier islands of the Ria Formosa and translate this recognition into the various planning instruments of the territory;
2. Rehabilitates all the villages and bathing areas on the barrier islands of the Ria Formosa, thus improving the living conditions of the communities living in them and guaranting the right to enjoy these spaces by local populations and tourists visiting the region.
Instead of implementing these recommendations, the government has decided to resume demolitions.
The Communist Party also notes that the Ministry of the Environment "should have responded on the implementation of the recommendations and that this is in breach of the procedural rule requiring a reply to be made within 30 days.
"The resumption of the demolitions represents a serious disregard for a Resolution of the Assembly of the Republic - approved, with the favorable vote of the Socialist Party - which is why the Communist Party’s Parliamentary Group is requesting an urgent explanation from the Minister for the Environment."